Some staffers at Chicago's downtown museums are getting a few extra days off next week as the NATO summit rolls into town. Three museums - the Art Institute, the Shedd Aquarium and the Adler Planetarium - will be closed Saturday through Monday, May 19-21. The Field Museum will be closed on Sunday and Monday.
At least two of the museums - the Art Institute and the Field - will be holding private parties for NATO attendees and guests on Sunday evening. Security concerns around those events, and around the summit scheduled for Sunday at McCormick Place, prompted the Sunday closures.
The decision to close on Monday and Saturday was not taken lightly by any of the museums.
"We are loathe to close," said Erin Hogan, director of public affairs at the Art Institute. "Logistically, it would be very difficult for employees to find their way to and from the museum." Hogan said there would be a skeleton crew on duty (including her) to make sure things go smoothly.
"We're generally very excited about NATO," said Hogan. "It's just that no one here has ever experienced anything of this magnitude before and so we're erring on the side of caution."
The Shedd will have staffers staying overnight to feed the fish and mammals.
"Animal care is our top priority here at Shedd," said Andrea Smalec, director of communications and public relations at the aquarium.
The Field Museum staff is confident, after talking with the Secret Service, that people will be able to find their way to the museum campus on Saturday, but they decided late this week that Monday would be problematic. The Museum Campus stop on the Metra Electric line will be closed, as will that part of Lake Shore Drive.
"We know there will be some street closures and we will be posting directions on our website," said Nancy O'Shea, the Field's public relations director. "We will make it as easy as possible for people to get here."
The Shedd's Smalec points out that people will be arriving for the summit as early as the beginning of next week. She hopes checking out the museums (and one aquarium in particular) will be an item on their to-do lists as they tour Chicago.
"We think there will be longterm benefits," added Smalec, as Chicago becomes more of a player on the world's stage.
Ed. Note: This story has been modified from the original to reflect the updated information about the Field Museum closing on Monday.